Back to Insights

Work Smart, Not Hard: Talking In-House UA Automation with Vlad, Sunday’s Head of Growth

Today we sit down with Vlad, Sunday’s Head of Growth, to chat about the ins and outs of leading a team and the transformative power of automation. But Vlad isn’t just a numbers guy – he’s a people person at heart, and he knows that the key to success is putting his team first. So, are you ready to dive deep and soak up all the valuable insight from one of the industry’s most dynamic leaders? By the way, you are also getting a jugglery metaphor thrown into the mix for a good measure. Let’s start!

Hi, Vlad! To start off, how would you describe your role at Sunday? 

I have a good metaphor for you. If you work in UA, you’re like a juggler. You can practice throwing balls, catching them, and optimizing your technique. But at some point, all the balls are in the air and you are no longer in control. Same with UA, which you can try to predict and improve, but you’re never in full control of. As the Head of Growth at Sunday, I, basically, teach people to be the best jugglers. This includes training them to have this mindset that even if you’re the best at what you do, there are still things you can’t control like user behavior. You may fail, and it’s alright! If you fail and learn from it, that’s not a failure. You need to keep your motivation high and keep improving.

So, “when the balls are in the air” what do you do to keep your team motivated? 

Besides the right mindset about failures, I make sure they can identify with their product. They need to have the understanding that anything they do for this product is an opportunity: to initialize ideas, test them, and just generally think outside the box. And to do that, they need time. Every opportunity they want to take, they should be able to take without feeling time-constrained. So, they need to have the freedom, basically: to think and analyze something outside of just the numbers or deeper within them. 

Now, how do you ensure that your team has the time and the freedom for taking opportunities?

You have to think about whether there are processes that occur constantly and take a lot of time. If so, we at Sunday believe that you should invest the time of your tech teams and automate these processes. If you want your growth managers to succeed in their main responsibilities, like optimizing, testing, thinking outside the box, and so on, the tedious manual work shouldn’t take more than 30% of their time. 

Maintaining existing campaigns should take as little time as possible. To ensure that you need to analyze what exactly is the most time-consuming thing that you’re doing within this process. And that, for us, was bidding. We have so many different networks, and each network has different campaigns with thousands of sources. This means you basically have to copy and paste 10,000 workflows from one dashboard to another. We noticed this quite early and focused on getting developers to take up bidding automation. Now we have an in-house tool that allows growth managers to do bidding – which would take days in other companies – in less than 10 minutes. 

Now our BI people are automating the LTV prediction. As we work only with in-house tools, we have all the data for that in our back-end. We had it analyzed to create the right formula, and it’s working. We can already in a matter of days predict what the LTV will be after D30-D40. 

That’s impressive! Are you planning to keep automating other processes? 

Yes, because you can automate almost anything performance-based. For example, every time you launch a new game, on the monetization side of it you always have some manual waterfall placement work. This is, again, hundreds of small copy-and-paste tasks. We also looked into that with our BI team, and now, we can already launch a title with all the required waterfalls and placements in less than an hour. For comparison, other companies hire people for whom this is their entire job. 

Same with IPM testing. We simply said “no, that’s not how we want to work” and created Sundash. Not only it is a tool that allows publishers to evaluate the performance of their product in real-time, but it also makes testing procedures automatic. If you have a game that you want to test, then all you need to do is upload videos to Sundash. The Facebook test will start, pause and the data will be fetched, all automatically. 

I noticed that you keep mentioning the impact of BI. How does it contribute to the efficiency of the growth team?

You need to have a strong BI team as a backup for your growth because it enables you to create these automations and streamline your UA activities. Some companies will build a team of 10-20 growth managers for a product because all of those small tasks pile up and someone needs to take care of them. That’s actually not at all necessary. You could generate extra time by having at least a couple of BI people with an excellent understanding of numbers. It easily multiplies the power of your growth team by factor five. What surprises me is that we see so many talks, panels, and expos centered around growth and UA, yet it’s too rare that BI is talked about. I think BI people aren’t getting enough recognition, because their work is often not that obvious, however, its impact is undeniable.

Shout out to the BI people!

Shout out to the BI people!

Are there things that you would still keep manual? And if so, why?

Yes, creativity, because you can’t automate it. Let’s say you test a creative, and you get the quantitative data on its IPM. You can break the creative down to seconds and analyze the clusters and their order, but it doesn’t mean that if you recreate the same structure, it’s going to work again and you’ll reach the same IPM. Here you still need a human mind to analyze the performance of the creative and what drove people to click on it. You don’t want to just copy it next time, you want to take the learnings to implement them in the future. It’s a learning process, and you can’t automate it either. 

How would you describe the impact of all these UA automation efforts on your team and its efficiency?

Well, the first thing that you notice is the low stress level. It’s much easier to meet deadlines and deal with delays and other complications if you can finish an important task in one hour instead of six. At Sunday we don’t want to see people work overtime just to meet the company’s expectations or release dates. This is just not the environment we have. Removing this stress is so important.

Also, I would think that most growth managers simply don’t enjoy doing the donkey work. You don’t become a growth manager to copy and paste numbers from one sheet to another, right? If you have a system that you can trust to take over the manual work, you make time to do things that made you want to become a growth manager in the first place: analyze the performance of games and come up with ideas on how to improve it. Automation allows us to focus on things that are important.

Your team is building so many in-house tools. How does investing in our own tech stack help Sunday move forward in the industry? 

If you take a look at the mobile advertising industry today, you will notice that there is a big monopolization happening. You see companies buying other companies, and tech tools and recombining them with their own stack. Naturally, when one tracking provider belongs to an SDK network, which also owns a studio, and then this whole corporation suddenly also owns a dashboard, this creates dependencies. It feels like if you join this industry now, you have to decide who you’re becoming allies with. That’s because it’s more convenient to stick to one of these ecosystems, where tools are optimized to work well with each other. Using tools from different companies will rob you of some of the financial and performance benefits.

Going back to the question, thanks to building our own tools in-house we are able to stay mostly independent from big conglomerates. We don’t have to pick sides, and we stay protected from situations that might potentially harm our business like sudden contract changes or price increases. These things happen, and businesses have to reconsider their whole strategies and budgets. Luckily, we’re able to avoid this. Because we build our own tech stack, we can focus on our core business, which is making the best hyper-casual games and providing entertainment for people all around the world. 

Thanks, Vlad!

That’s a wrap on our interview! From juggling to automation, from the BI appreciation to the nitty gritty of motivation and failure, Vlad’s insights are as fun and enlightening as ever. Thanks for tuning in and we can’t wait to bring you more engaging interviews with Sunday’s most prominent voices soon. Until next time!

Interested in publishing with Sunday?

Ready to begin your success story?